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The Messerschmitt Bf109 Early Series (V1 to E-9 including the T-Series)


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The Messerschmitt Bf109 Early Series (V1 to E-9 including the T-Series)
A Complete Guide To The Luftwaffe's Famous Fighter

Richard A. Franks
Airframe and Miniature Series No.5
RRP £19.95 from Valiant Wings Publishing






This is now the fifth title by Richard A. Franks in Valiant Wings' "Airframe and Miniature Series", which have previously covered the Me262, Fw190 D / Ta152, Hawker Typhoon and most recently Hawker Tempest. The format throughout has remained pretty constant, and is continued in this volume. The content covers firstly the history and development of the airframes, and then looks at the modelling options for these aircraft in various scales, ending with sets of scale plans. The only real difference with this one is that at nearly 210 pages, it is significantly larger than its predecessors (although only £2 more).






This book is divided in to eleven chapters, the first seven of which are grouped under "Airframe". Once again, the comparison can be made to Squadron's 'Walkaround' series for those familiar with them. The second section is "Miniature" and deals with kits and aftermarket available for the 109, as well as builds. This section is similar to the Osprey 'Modelling Manuals' series. The book ends with appendices listing kits and modelling accessories. Right at the end, we have the largest set of pull-out plans to date - six sided views of the following variants, all in 1/48 scale: Bf109 V-1, B-0, D-1, E-1, E-7 Trop and T-2.




Although one could quite reasonably ask, 'what has not already been written about 109, arguably the most famous plane ever?', the Preface does provide a neat little history of the 109 project, from initial development and competition with the He112, world speed record attempts, through to combat in the Spanish Civil War and the early years of WWII. If you are not familiar with these early 109 types and the differences between them, I would suggest having a look through Chapter 10 before doing anything, as this will help familiarise you with what the various marks and sub-types looked like.




Airframe Chapters


1. Evolution – The Versuch (V) Series

The format is a familiar one carried over from previous volumes in this series: each significant prototype and production variant is dealt with in turn, noting engine type, weaponry and indeed any other distinguishing features or characteristics; camouflage and markings are also described (but no profiles in this section - they come later). This first chapter really focusses on just three airframes - the Versuchs V1, V2 and V3.




2. Bf109 B Series

As stated at the beginning of this chapter, production started with the B series because the A was superseded so quickly (armament deemed inadequate). Included here are the first three B pre-production series which were really As - WNrn 808, 809 and 810. We then cover the next ten Versuchs B series machines, so you can see that if modelling particular prototypes is your thing, this is an ideal book. The chapter ends with the B-1 and B-2, and looks at the different features relative to manufacturer (Fieseler vs Erla).




3. Bf109 C & D Series

These are dealt with together given the very small numbers produced: the C having the Jumo 201G engine, and the D having the Jumo210D. Two different Swiss D airframes are included here.




4. Bf109 E Prototypes

We now start to edge closer to what many people think of as the definitive 109. Although pilots may have loved the Friedrich (once the tail stopped dropping off!), I am definitely in the camp that considers the Battle of Britain era 109s as the epitome of Messerschmitt's most famous fighter. Eight Versuchs machines are covered here, including WNr 1050 used for a world speed record attempt. The chapter finishes with the E-0 pre-production prototypes.




5. Bf109 E Production

This is the chapter that I think many people will jump straight to when they first pick up the book. The variants are dealt with sequentially E-1 through to E-9. It should be borne in mind that modifications such as the fitting of ETC racks for either fuel tank or bomb are included sequentially as well, even though many of these were retro-fitted eg the E-1/B did not precede the E-4/B, and so on. Pretty much all the permutations are covered, from changes in gun sights, which type of MG FF cannon, through to engine types and associated octane levels. It does take quite a bit of reading and re-reading, however, and the biggest let down is there is no indication of numbers produced of each sub-type. I realise that with many of the modifications being retro-fits it might be nigh on impossible, but otherwise you might go away thinking that the E -1/B was just as common as the E-4/B, when this was not the case. Despite this, I really do like the progression through the variants, with each successive description stating "same as xyz previous variant, except..." - it's quite a clean way to keep track of everything.




6. Bf109 T Series, Projects and One-off Conversions

Most of this section is concerned with 109s adapted for carrier operations, and the prototypes that preceded the T series in getting to that stage. There were quite a few types here that I had never seen before, and some nice detail touches regarding the regular T as well. At the end there is a most peculiar looking bird: a 109 airframe but with a Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial engine, and bubble top canopy; this was truly a one-off!


7. Camouflage and Markings

The rather honest disclaimer that nothing is certain when trying to interpret colours from black and white photos starts this chapter. That being said, I think that pre- and early WWII colours are generally a rather more certain field than in say 1945. Spanish Civil War aircraft are the first covered, then the C and D in Luftwaffe service, and finally 109s in foreign service. There are colour templates showing the progression in splinter camouflage, stencil placement, and then 35 side -on colour profiles. There also close-ups of various unit badges, although these are all fairly well-known already I think. The usual profile disclaimer applies here (I am such a cynic!): although I rate this book quite highly, I would always suggest doing your own research before blindly following a profile for a modelling project.

In the Tempest book there was a small section outlining types and dimensions of roundels, squadron codes and serial numbers. Here too we have a look at the types of cross (or Balkenkreuz); dimensions are given, but you have to hunt around a bit in the text, which is disappointing; I would have much preferred to see the dimensions printed with the diagrams. Although there is mention of the 'super-size' wing crosses which were seen on some early war 109s, sadly there are no pictures of these, despite them being on one or two very well-known airframes eg Illner's JG51 bird with the 'smoking lips'. Finally, I am not sure whether interior colours are included here (or anywhere in the book), but there is no mention of the variation / changeover in cockpit colour from RLM02 to RLM66 which appears to have taken place somewhere in the E-4 (I am still not sure this has ever been nailed down...).




Miniature Chapters


8. Bf109 V1 to E-9 and T-Series Kits

A round-up of the 109 kits available in the main scales of 1/72, 1/48, 1/32 and 1/24. If you are a relative newcomer to modelling, this will tell you most of what you need to know in a few minutes, and allow your internet research to be a lot more focussed. I am at best ambivalent towards this section because, although very well written and presented, by its very nature it will date so quickly. Perhaps at my suggestion (?) in previous reviews, Valiang Wings will now make downloadable pdf covering many of the older and less relevant kits; I also hope this section will be updated as and when new releases are made. I build exclusively in 1/32, so I cannot comment on the reviews of the 1/72 and 1/48 kits, but I do know "my" scale fairly well where 109s are concerned I think. I was therefore rather surprised when reading the Eduard kit review to see no mention of the fact that the slats are significantly over-sized in chord - so much so that you cannot position the upper wing crosses correctly without the cross overlapping the slat (how do I know this I wonder?!). The seat is also rather poor and definitely needs aftermarket attention, and I would have mentioned this too. Just my opinion, but I am afraid I cannot disagree more with the author's conclusions where the Eduard vs DML / Cyberhobby kits are concerned: for me the Cyberhobby ones are markedly superior in almost every respect.




7. Building a Selection

The chapter provides builds of 109s in 1/72, 1/48, 1/32 and 1/24 scale. The standard of finish is excellent, and the various builders published here are clearly talented modellers. The builds are not full step-by-step walk-throughs, but similar in nature to the chapters you get in the Osprey Modelling Manual series. Four kits are built in 1/72, but only one in 1/48; neither the Tamiya nor Hasegawa kits are tackled in 1/48 which even I know is a significant omission. In 1/32 scale there are only two builds, and they are both Eduard, although the first uses Alley Cat's D-1 conversion. Unless you read the small print you will not appreciate that the engine is in no way built out of the box - the builder has added a lot of extra detail here and it looks impressive. The lack of a DML / Cyberhobby comparison build is a serious omission in my view, and the fact that a number of key detail weaknesses / inaccuracies of the Eduard kit are not mentioned by either the main author or the builder means personally I can't take this or the preceding section too seriously I'm afraid.




10. Building a Collection

This chapter provides excellent three quarter angle CAD image of all the variants, from the various prototypes through to production models. Drawing board projects are not covered, but pretty much everything else is. This is an excellent visual checklist and a useful 'go-to' reference if trying to look at period photographs to determine exactly what variant etc.




11. In Detail

As the title implies, this is a large selection of technical diagrams, cut-away line drawings, b&w period photos and colour photos of museum restored aircraft or sections thereof. If you are serious about super detailing your kit in 1/48 or 1/32, the information here will be particularly useful. The cockpit is particularly well covered, with some eleven pages devoted to this area. After that, we have sub-sections devoted to landing gear, engine, different types of armament and so on. I wish I had had this book when I was trying to super-detail my Emil a couple of years ago - this chapter would have helped a lot.


Appendices I-III: Modelling Summary

A comprehensive list of kits (I), aftermarket Accessories (II), and Decals (III). The quantity of material out there for the early 109s is pretty vast as you can imagine, but just listing things doesn't tell you whether an upgrade is any good or not, of course.


Appendix IV – Bibliography


Full 1/48 Scale Plans (pull-out)
As mentioned at the top of the review, the book ends with six sets of pull-out plans, all in 1/48 scale: Bf109 V-1, B-0, D-1, E-1, E-7 Trop and T-2.


So What Do We Think?

I am still not convinced about the modelling section, but on the whole I do really like this series of books, and this latest instalment. It doesn't cover everything in great detail, and there are a few things missing that would be handy, but it is excellent value, and on balance a very good all-round quick reference.




With thanks to the team at Valiant Wings Publishing for the review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link.


Nicholas Mayhew




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Good book, but as I mention, I disagree with the author's assessment of the DML kit vs the Eduard one, as there were some curious omissions.


Having said that, it is a good 'all-rounder', and to put it in perspective, I would shell out my own cash for a copy if I had not had a review sample; I do think it is very good value.


Glad you liked the review



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